Speech directions: Words in brackets that tell the actor how to say the lines. This helps us to understand the feelings of the character easily. Asides: When a character temporarily turns away from another character and speaks directly to the audience. This helps us to understand a character’s real feelings at a particular moment in a play. It is often used for humour or to help us empathise with a character. Entrance and exits: It is important to notice when characters exit and enter a scene. Pay particular attention to what is being said as they enter or what they say as they leave.
Shakespeare often had characters leaving after a dramatic rhyming couplet (two lines that rhyme). Scenes and Acts: It is important to pay attention to when a playwright chooses to end a scene and an Act (a number of scenes). It is usually significant in building audience expectations of what is to come. This is sometimes a cliff hanger. Symbolism: When an object is used to represent something else, e. g. a broken vase may symbolise a broken relationship. Stage Directions: Read these carefully. They tell us what should be happening on stage and will often include clues, e. g. the darkening of the stage may suggest something bad approaching.
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Characterization – how is personality revealed e. g. gestures, mannerism, line delivery – tone, pace, volume, intonation, pausing Sound Off-stage: Noises off-stage may indicate the coming of conflict, of something bad likely to happen. Recurring imagery (motifs): Look out for repeated words, phrases and images. Together, these create a sense of mood or a key theme, e. g. references to chains may suggest the feeling of imprisonment. Prose or verse: it is possible to tell the status of a character or the mood of the scene by whether it is written as poetry or in everyday speech, e. g. haracters of low status do not speak in verse and comic scenes are often written in prose. Setting Soliloquy: When a character is alone on stage and speaks out his or her thoughts aloud. Costuming – purpose/change/effect of (particularly in different film versions of the play) Language that invites action: A character can say something that requires others to act or react. Look out for what this tells us about the character, e. g. a sudden order might suggest frustration. Language and length Look out for how much or little is said by characters. Playwrights will often change the pace (slowing down or speeding up) by how the characters speak.